Changing the Contract-Violating Culture…
One Lunch at a Time


More than 100 Editors Guild members attended the Los Angeles General Membership meeting on October 11. More than 30 also attended in New York. Photo by Jeff Burman

by Stephanie Brown and John Vitale

The primary mission of the Membership Outreach Committee is to engage the Guild membership in discussing workplace issues and developing solutions or plans of action to address these concerns.

At the annual General Membership meetings in Los Angeles and New York on October 11, members submitted nominations for the upcoming Board of Directors election and heard speeches from Guild National Executive Director Cathy Repola and President Alan Heim, ACE (by video conference on the East Coast). More than 30 members attended the New York gathering, while in LA there were about 120 members — the largest turnout for a General Membership meeting in recent times.

The meetings allowed members to engage in one-on-one conversations with the speakers to discuss pressing issues in an informal setting. In New York, one particular issue concerned music editors being hired as day players, rather than weekly hires, and the potential impact that has on the classification.

In LA, several who worked in television brought up many points relating to shorter schedules and greater workloads, which are causing increased stress in the cutting rooms. While some of the bigger concerns will need to be addressed above the line, there was talk of starting with small steps in the cutting room — the first of which is the importance of…lunch.

To that effect, our committee has launched the campaign “Lunch Is Not a Luxury” (#lunchisnotaluxury). Time and time again, we hear from members that it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to take a lunch break for various reasons. Not only is it beneficial both mentally and physically to take a lunch break, it is the law and is codified in our union contracts. Employers are required to either provide us with meal break period(s) or pay us a penalty for not doing so.

The penalties escalate, so the longer it takes to get the break, the more expensive the penalty. The current IATSE contracts allow for no less than a half-hour meal break, but up to an hour after every six hours of work. However, this penalty can only be paid if members indicate correctly on their time cards that they did not receive a meal break. In all circumstances, members should always write the actual hours worked, and never falsify their time cards. If you are being coerced to do the latter, please contact a Guild Field Representative.

Heard at the meetings and elsewhere was the disturbing revelation that some Guild members are actively encouraging other members to violate the contract by not taking a lunch and not putting in for meal penalties. Many members on both coasts expressed great concern about this bullying tactic amongst the membership on this and potentially other issues as well. This behavior completely contradicts the very essence of what it means to be in a union, and undermines any contract that has been signed.

As a result, the Membership Outreach Committee’s next campaign, which will begin next year, is “Change the Culture.” We need to change the apparent culture in the editorial rooms, and on the mixing stages, that suggests we are only in this for ourselves and that what we do as individuals does not have an impact on our union as a whole. Wrong. It does.

The rallying cry from the General Membership meetings was to improve our work-home balance and the overall quality of life. Some of that may be addressed through upcoming contract negotiations, perhaps through a change in turnaround or increased penalties. But what conversations or actions can we start in the workplace to change the culture? A crew lunch, maybe, or a quick coffee break away from the cutting room with a colleague or two?

Picture editors, have you spoken to your assistants about what their future career goals are and advised them as to how those can be achieved? Sound editors and mixers, what recent conversations have you had with colleagues about current issues facing the sound community? Overall, what ideas do you have that we can share with the membership about changing the culture? The Membership Outreach Committee wants to hear from you. Contact us at or on the “I Am the Union” Facebook page.

Due to the successful turnout at the General Membership meetings, we would like to have additional town hall-type gatherings next year with the membership, the Board of Directors and the Guild’s executive staff. One suggestion from New York was for the Guild to send more e-mails to the membership soliciting information about current issues, and then using these town hall meetings to expand the conversation.

The committee would like the opportunity to develop any ideas or action plans that members suggest regarding the “Change the Culture” or “Lunch Is Not a Luxury” campaigns. In addition, we will continue to hold roundtable meetings, Master Classes and various panel discussions.